In Texas, Oil Prospecting Could Be as Simple as Looking at the Ground

Jul 23, 2013

In Utah, sandstone researchers say is bleached from red to white by hydrocarbon microseepages.
Credit University of Houston

Texas crude may not be oozing to the surface, but scientists think they can find oil and gas deposits just by looking at dirt.

Scientists at the University of Houston are finding ways to use sophisticated analysis of satellite imagery to detect miniscule changes to the Earth' surface caused by mineral deposits below, StateImpact Texas reports.

Microseepages, geologists say, cause chemical changes to the rocks and plants above the oil and gas deposits too small for the human eye to detect.  Using images of Earth's surface taken by NASA, a team of scientists and students are looking for anomalies caused by these miniscule hydrocarbon leaks.

Hyperspectral satellite remote sensing can help them detect these irregularities in the surface, such as plants growing differently or the bleached sandstone in Utah which scientists think is caused by these microseepages.

Researchers say documenting what known microseepages look like could help find untapped mineral deposits more cheaply and efficiently than conventional seismic testing.